With the acquisition of Chris Duarte, the Kings bolstered their wing position and depth this offseason.
As opposed to going into the season relying solely on Kessler Edwards and a rookie second-round pick in Colby Jones, Sacramento has a guy that’s played a substantial role at a high level at one point in this league, which earned him an All-Rookie second team selection in 2021.
His versatile skillset, which can manifest itself on both ends of the floor, does seem to offer more than some of the other bench options—at least on paper—here in the offseason. But it’s that versatility that could help him snag key minutes from other, more prominent names on the roster.
Duarte will command minutes over Edwards and Jones, but after Mike Brown noted his shooting and size in an interview last month, could it be that Davion Mitchell could lose some minutes night-to-night because of Duarte?
With the shooting and size, Brown also highlighted the former Pacers’ ability to get his own shot as well. If all goes well, he should have the ball in his hands a lot. And with that, Duarte would be another player like Monk: a non-point guard taking ball handling duties from Mitchell. And if Duarte shoots better than his 31.6% clip from three last season while bringing sufficient defense, he’ll have a great case to take time from Mitchell.
It was Mitchell’s shortcomings in terms of outside shooting that swayed Mike Brown from playing his defensive weapon and instead playing Terence Davis at the tail end of the Warriors series. Mitchell shot a respectable 3 of 8 from three in the first two games against Golden State, but he went 4 of 19 in the final five contests, leaving the playoffs with a 25.9% clip.
Regardless of whether or not it was the right move to play Davis over Mitchell late in the series, Mike Brown and the Kings will clearly want the best two-way performer possible for those situations going forward, which is understandable. If Mitchell shoots it effectively, then this won’t be much of a concern for him, but that’s far from a certainty. Remember, he’s a career 31.7% three-point shooter through two seasons.
So if Duarte can bring some plus-defense and be a more legitimate outside threat—which, unlike Mitchell, he’s proven he can be at this level—then he could see more late-game action. As quick and strong as Mitchell is on-ball, having another guy with length has great appeal. Duarte is 6’5″ with a 6’7″ wingspan while Mitchell stands at 6’0″ with a wingspan that is near equal to his height.
Obviously Mitchell is the best one-man-show on the defensive end of any other Kings players, Duarte included, but Duarte would provide good length that could compliment the other four guys and help the defense “play bigger,” as Mike Brown would say.
If Duarte brings the best form of himself (i.e. something akin to his rookie season), he’ll have multiple access points to seeing the hardwood under coach Brown.
And being reunited with Domantas Sabonis will only aid his efforts as the comfort and chemistry the two shared in Indiana is likely to resurface in Sacramento.
However, with the season he had a year ago, nothing is for certain. In fact, there is a world where Duarte loses out on rotational time if his down year extends into year three. He scored 7.1 points per game on 36.9% shooting from the floor on lots of quality looks. Moreover, he also had less rebounds per 36 minutes as well as less steals and more personal fouls per 36 compared to year one.
And the main thing that could go wrong with Duarte is his health. Despite his great rookie season, he played just 55 games that season, and last year, he played just 46. Staying healthy is always vital—after all, it was health that helped contribute to the Kings third place finish last season—and this is especially true when joining a new team with a new staff, new teammates, and new scheme.
It’s not just that injuries could prevent him from playing, but if those injuries do occur, it will inhibit his chance to gain optimal chemistry and comfort with the team. So even if he does get healthy, he might have a hard time having to run uphill in order to catch up with and usurp some of the other more integrated guys.
This is the nature of the Chris Duarte acquisition.
Clearly the Kings have always liked him as they sought to acquire him in the Sabonis trade in February 2022. Indiana proclaimed that he was untouchable at that time, but a little over a year later, they were able to snag him in exchange for two second-round picks.
Considering the sudden shift in the Pacers’ valuation of Duarte, there might be a perceived plateau or decline from their viewpoint, whether that be in performance or health—though health would be more likely. Of course, it could be more likely he just needs a new home given the fact the Pacers were so loaded at the guard/wing position as well as the fact that the terrific court leadership from Tyrese Haliburton limited the time that the ball was in Duarte’s hands. But even if that could potentially be the case, there is room for Duarte to be a letdown.
It would be hard to imagine that he can’t help the team, especially with him being able to benefit from Sabonis again, but even with that, there are still a wide range of possibilities for how Chris Duarte will ultimately impact the 2022-23 Sacramento Kings.